By Catherine Tsounis
I seized my moment in Tinos. June shows you an island with beautiful oleanders and geraniums. All winter I dreamt of having experiences at a traditional Greek island. I began a new chapter by enjoying window shopping and tasting local cuisine at Tinos in a Kapogiannis excursion arranged by Maria. Mrs. Anna Mihalopoulos, parish council president of Metamorphosis Church, Tripoli, led the group. By talking with the islanders, I learned their culture, history, and traditions first hand and not through books or the internet.
“I Panagia tis Tinou” (Virgin Mary) icon is proven to be miraculous. Whether one believes or not, facts prove that persons were cured. The religious center has built tourism of pilgrims. They come from all over the world to pray. The Chora City’s harbor is old fashion Greek. Cycladic island buildings with many traditional trading boats are the same as a 1932 photograph. Tinos is emerging with non- religious shopping and culture attractions.
The prices are low. It is a shopper’s dream of island products. Only the Plaka in Athens can compete. Shops with religious items, with signs advertising “small bottles for Holy Water” are numerous. The bottles are less than one euro ($1). At the Meteora monasteries, I paid 5 euros (over $5) for a similar bottle I had to beg the Meteora’s monastery caretaker for Holy water. At the Church of Panagia Evangelistria (Annunciation of the Virgin Mary), a faucet exists that allows all to take as much Holy Water as they want. Tinos is the major pilgrimage site in Greece with numerous shops with reasonable prices for the average Greek tourist.
Island boutiques exist alongside. In “Mitas” boutique flowing, long gauze and cotton dresses were in their windows. Trendy stores showed the latest style for the hot island climate. Handmade gold and costume jewelry and icons were at the “Dia Chiros” (Created by Hand) boutique. The religious aspect predominates in a long rug walkway from the harbor to the Evangelistria Church. I never saw anything like this before. Women were crawling, praying on their knees for blocks up to the church. Purple and deep pink Oleander bushes adorned the white island buildings all along my shopping tour. From June 4th to 5th was Artichoke Festival. The television station featured different recipes for artichokes using filo, flat bread, and spoon sweets. The latest rage was wooden sunglasses selling from 25 to 50 euros. Tourists were buying them quickly, compared to high internet prices.
The best bakery I came across in years was at “Bread Delicacies: O Kakalas” Vagelis Delatolas, a pleasant, blue eyed proprietor said “my tsoureki bread is made with Masticha”. That made quite an impression on me, since masticha goes for more than $7 for a small amount in New York. I bought olive bread stuffed with olives and onions that was out of this world. It pays to go to Tinos just to eat the bakery items at “O Kakalas” at Megalohari 14 street, tel. 2283024080 that was out of this world. Koulourakia, breads with cheese and sesame seeds, honey pita, baklava, lemon pastries, cherry pie, Greek pastries are some of their baked products. Their motto is “just like in the old days.”
I saw an unbelievable funeral procession traveling up to the Evangelistria Church. A Black car with the deceased and the priest led a parade of naval personnel with civilians, while pilgrims were crawling on the right side of a carpeted roadway with tourists shopping. This is material for a T.V. episode.
Sunday brunch was at “Aithrio” restaurant. The fish prices ranged from 8-16 euros. Homemade dishes, grilled meats and chicken ranged from 8-9 euros. It was a typical Tinos island waterfront tavern with cloth tablecloths. An artichoke pita was the special dish of the day. The crusty Italian bread was straight from the oven. A cheaper alternative to a tavern are the numerous snack bars doting the waterfront. I had a coffee frappe for 2 euros from “Mikrogevmata Angelo” (Angelo’s Snack Bar). Sandwiches, pizza, burgers, beverages, salads and other fast foods ranged from 1 to 5 euros. Snack bars are becoming popular in this economy. Waterfront signs said “Rent a bike and car”. Public transportation is difficult. The Ktel bus terminal has two programs of sightseeing. For 12 euros a person, a tourist can see the main island’s villages such as St. Pelagia’s monastery, Tarampados, Pirgos, Panormos, Volax and Kolimpithra. For more information visit [email protected]. The Golden Star Super ferry travels to Rafina, Naxos and Mykonos. The local grocery store sold Tinos loucoumi (Turkish delight) for 2 ½ euros, half the price in mainland Greece.
Incense for blessing one’s home is expensive in New York. Numerous shops had numerous kinds of incense packets for 1 euro. Magdalini “Magda” Triantafillou, a perky proprietor of “Religious Products” on the road to “Panagia tis Tinou” at Megaloharis 29, tel. 693807-8575, sold me icons and novelties. She had rows of icons on crystals, car religious hangings crosses, religious bracelets, replicas of religious sights that were incredibly beautiful. I bought icons on wood, filakta (miniature satin squares with blessed flowers) to take home. “I was in a motorcycle accident. Praying to the ‘Panagia tis Tinou’ saved me. Her deep religious faith is exceptional. Talking to this businesswoman showed me the soul of Tinos. Her hospitality is like the PBS series of the islanders in “The Durrells in Corfu”.
What made this a great trip was Kapogiannis Tours selection of Meltemi hotel at Filatiou 3. Its location is strategic. At corner, a pilgrim/tourist sees the Evangelistria Church. I had a private room with a balcony. I had a TV, refrigerator, Wi-Fi private bathroom. There was no stress in walking to church, shopping or dining. Anna is the manager. The snack bar and dining area was gave a traveler a comfortable feeling. Traveling with a Greek tourist agency, such as Kapogiannis Tours, was economical. Traveling makes you a happier person by building self-confidence, providing new experiences and memories, and allowing you to meet people from all over the world.